The Government has produced updated guidance which it says will enable care homes to re-introduce visiting, as long as it can be done in a Covid-secure way.
It says that care homes must balance the wellbeing benefits of visiting for residents with the Covid-19 transmission risk to social care staff and the people they look after.
Regular testing is already taking place for care home residents and staff. To enable visiting, prospective visitors must be free of symptoms of Covid-19 and take a rapid lateral flow test, which provides a result within the hour, when they arrive at care home. The visit will then be able to go ahead, with suitable personal protective equipment in place, unless the result is positive.
For additional reassurance, the City of Wolverhampton Council is also urging people who are planning to visit a loved one to book themselves a PCR Covid-19 test at one of Wolverhampton's regular Covid-19 test sites, approximately four days before their scheduled visit. PCR tests can be booked by visiting GOV.UK or by calling 119.
PCR tests are primarily for individuals with symptoms, therefore in order to access this service ahead of a care home visit, people should choose the option which says: "My local council has asked me to get a test".
Councillor Linda Leach, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Adult Services, said: “We are immensely grateful to our care homes who have worked relentlessly to protect our most vulnerable residents through these challenging times.
"Although the Government has announced that care homes can re-introduce visiting, the risk from Covid-19 remains, and care homes must balance that risk against the importance of visiting to residents and their families.
"So we need people to be patient as care homes wait until they have all the testing and PPE equipment they require, and are able to put all the measures in place that are needed to ensure visiting can take place safely.
“There is a lot to work through, including staff training and setting up booking and logging systems and this all takes time. The council will support homes and visitors through the process.
"Visitors will be required to have a rapid Covid-19 test when they arrive for their visit, but we're going one step further and encouraging anyone who is planning a visit to get an additional PCR test a few days beforehand. This will provide added reassurance as to whether they have the virus or not, and therefore whether the visit can go ahead.
“I know how hard this has been for both residents and relatives – but I also know that everyone agrees that the health and safety of residents and care staff must be our very top priority."
Care homes will contact families when they can re-open to visitors.
Latest data shows there were 270.34 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people in Wolverhampton over the 7 days to 18 December. That means 711 people in the city tested positive for the virus in that 7 day period – though the true number of new cases will likely be considerably higher.
The latest information and guidance around coronavirus is available at GOV.UK and on the council’s own coronavirus pages. Further details of the Tier 3 Very High Alert restrictions currently in place, and the answers to frequently asked questions, are available at Covid Alert.
Symptoms of Covid-19 include a fever, a new, continuous cough and loss or change to a person’s sense of taste and smell. To book a test, visit GOV.UK or call 119. People can get tested within 8 days of developing symptoms.